Last Music Day, I was quite excited about the discovery of a suitcase full of old cassette tapes in my father's workshop. I spent several hours Friday evening importing songs from the PFR tape featured in the Music Day post. Over the course of five or six hours, I had imported exactly two songs.
It appeared that several years of storage in a cold and not-very-well ventilated (not to mention dusty) building had begun to take its toll on the tape. There were muffled patches and places were it droned a bit. Still, the first two tracks were listenable (not nearly CD quality, but listenable) and I added them to my iTunes library. Then I went to bed.
The next morning I awakened giddy at the prospect of spending the day adding old rock songs to my music collection. I showered, ate breakfast, sat down at the computer, and began importing from where I'd left off the previous night.
Two minutes and forty-five seconds later, I began to have my doubts about how well the day was going to turn out. The tape, which had played all right for the first half of the song, started to drag horribly. Driving guitars and the crashing of drums take on a nightmarish sound when slowed to a quarter of their normal speed.
I let it record until the end of the song, but I knew there was no way I would be able to fix the drag using the software. It was too severe.
My father heard it from the next room as it was recording and came to listen.
"It's dragging that badly?" he asked.
"It wasn't that bad when we listened to it yesterday, was it?"
He took the tape out of the player and put it in another player we had in the house -- one that had been known to work (but, of course, couldn't connect to the computer or we would have used that one in the first place). We found the exact place in the music where it had been dragging and listened. It came through completely clear and at the proper tempo.
"It must be that player then," my father said. "I have another one in the workshop you can try."
He went out and found two. I connected one of them and re-imported the song. Nearly perfect.
I continued to import that side of the tape, intending to get all the songs and then go back and re-import the first two (to see if I could get better quality copies). It was all going very well. I finished the first side, flipped the tape over, pressed Play, and waited.
And waited... and waited... and waited.
I checked the little window. The spools were turning; all seemed to be normal. Still, this was quite a long wait. I stopped the player and took out the cassette. The tape around the take-up spool was a bit loose and out of habit I gave it a few manual turns with my finger to tighten it. It didn't appear to tighten. I tried turning the other direction although I was certain I had turned it the proper direction the first time. No effect. So I gave it a good half-dozen turns in what I knew to be the proper direction. It still didn't tighten.
How could this be? It had just been in a properly working player. The tension had been fine until now.
Perhaps the tape had caught on something. I looked at the bottom of the cassette.
There was nothing.
No tape, either clear or magnetic.
I rushed out and showed my father. He examined it, but declared the damage permanent. The cassette had no screws that could have been removed to open it; and thanks to my patience letting the broken end wrap around the spool over and over again, the ends of the tape were far inside the cassette -- irretrievable.
I checked my old friend, the iTunes Store. Believe it or not, I had finally found an album that the iTunes Store does not yet carry. I submitted a request, but I was bordering desperate. I had been on a roll; I couldn't just stop.
What more could I do? Where else could I get a copy of the album without having to wait an indefinite amount of time?
Then an idea came to me. Actually, two ideas -- eBay and Amazon.
I went to Amazon.com and quickly found a few copies, the least expensive being a 'used' (but still packaged) CD for $3.98 US. Not bad, I thought. I proceeded to buy it.
Unfortunately, I live in a very rural area. This means I do not have a house number or a P.O. box. The only way our mail carrier can tell our mail from the neighbours' is by the name written above the address. This is perfectly acceptable to any other shipping company you can find. They may think it a bit odd, but they'll still send the material. Lo and behold it always gets here.
But not Amazon.com. You must, must, MUST have a P.O. box to get something shipped to you. Oh, and an actual town -- not the little pinprick thirteen kilometres away that is home to several thousand people, thank you very much. Oh, does that postal code have letters in it?
On any other site you order something from, you select 'Canada' in the list of countries, and everything else adjusts itself accordingly. On Amazon.com, you select 'Canada' in the list of countries, and it's like sirens go off. Their servers overheat and go into error loops. Smoke fills the building. The safe housing billions of dollars is about to explode.
The Canadians are coming! Arm yourselves! Man the cannons! Women and children first!
Frustrated with Amazon.com's stubbornness, I decided to see if there was an Amazon.ca. There was, but there the cheapest copy available was twenty-two dollars. Twenty-two dollars! I could go to the ridiculously overpriced local Christian bookstore and buy the exact same album for fifteen, tops (and I would have except said bookstore only sells albums released in the past two months and even then you're delving into ancient history. Don't even ask about an obscure band's farewell album from 1997).
Unfortunately, my desperation had clouded my sense (yes I have some, stop laughing). I bought it. Once the shipping cost was added to it (because of course it was coming from Oregon or something like that), I had relieved myself of nearly thirty dollars.
I am the queen of cheapskates. Anything more than fifteen dollars is a major purchase. It isn't that I can't afford to pay thirty dollars, it's just that I could have gotten the exact same item for only a bit more than four dollars if Amazon.com hadn't been so flipping stupid (and if I hadn't fallen to their level and bought it anyway).
If you ask me, it's a conspiracy theory to strip the 'polite' Canadians of every dollar they own. But regardless of whether it's true or not, I will never again use Amazon's 'service.' Whether you try Amazon.com or Amazon.ca, it's a ripoff. Pure and simple.